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The Controversy Behind Tattooing Dark Skin




Tattoos can be a great way to express yourself visually, by adorning your body in beautiful artwork. The tattoo community is, for the most part, very open minded and accepting, often educating their clientele and the public alike about the various styles and colors available to choose from. However, there has been quite the controversy in recent times, predominantly on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, about the “difficulty” of tattooing on dark skin tones.


Tattoo artists have traditionally been known to deny inking color into darker skin tones. Many have been told that their only option is black and grey tattoos, since those are the only shades that will show up “properly” after the healing process. Thankfully, tattoo artists worldwide are challenging these myths.



Photo credit screenshot of Travisbrucetattoos/Instagram



Travis Bruce, an artist at Electric Gold Tattoo in Florida, made the announcement over Instagram that he will be offering free “color tests” to any dark-skinned client that would be willing to participate in his experiment. He will etch a few lines into the skin, using a variety of pigments, and continue to keep in contact with the group of people who opted into this experiment, in order to determine how certain hues will look on different skin colors. He claims this will be an ongoing policy and a great way to further educate the masses and bust industry myths.



Typically, artists are trained on lighter skin tones during their apprenticeship. Once their apprenticeship ends, artists tend to stick to what they know, which greatly limits both their clientele and their potential. The excuse is that lighter skin colors “showcase” an artist’s work better, displaying more detail, healing clearer and staying vibrant over the years. However, many artists and clients alike have shown their disdain over social media, claiming these actions are racist and incompetent. There may be some truth to those statements as experienced artists pointed out that, in reality, the tattooist making these racist statements is simply not skilled enough to comfortably ink colors into a dark canvas.


This is an extremely important (and relevant) topic, as Black Lives Matter protests are commencing worldwide. People are marching and protesting against police brutality and the blatant racism still being shown to this day. Black skin has been discriminated against for far too long and, with the apparent change that is due to happen, tattoo artists need to catch up. Denying someone a service simply because you lack the skill to do your job properly is appalling and offensive, to say the least.


There is something to be said about being a well-rounded and well-educated artist, who does their due diligence and goes outside of their comfort zone in order to include anyone who walks through their door. Every skin type will need a certain amount of awareness, consideration, knowledge and attention to detail to make the artwork suit that specific individual.


Discriminatory actions will not be tolerated in 2021 – or ever again.



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